To be honest, being a humble sustainable wood products salesperson, these presentations challenged me and forced me to broaden my understanding of contemporary forestry. However, sometimes it is important to dive into the deep end of a subject and struggle to better understand the complex world in which we live.
The conference started with Dr. Jerry Franklin, of the University of Washington, who set the tone when he stated, “Today, we are going to talk about how we can manage [forests] for resiliency, carbon storage and wood products. How the hell are we going to do all that?”
I went to this conference to answer the same question. How can we continue to improve forest ecosystem health and biodiversity on a planet where the climate is changing, and which has a high risk of being overpopulated?
Sadly, not all my questions were answered, nor were my fears soothed, but I did walk away with a growing curiosity about the future of these complex ecosystems, and an appreciation for them that compels me to learn more.
The highlights of the conference were a walk in the Capitol State Forest with a panel of forestry experts to view the Blue Ridge Unit. The Blue Ridge Unit is a section of forest that is being used by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources to research various forestry and silvicultural practices and better understand the benefits and detractors from different methods. Many of the topics that flew over my head in the morning sessions were much easier to understand once we were walking in the woods.
That evening, Emma Marris, the author of Rambunctious Garden: Saving Nature in a Post-Wild World, opened my eyes to the possibility that some of my preconceived notions, which are widely shared with others, are foolish. One such foolish notion is that ecosystems should be properly managed to be returned to a pre-European utopia when flora and fauna was more in balance. Rather than aiming to return ecosystems to a state that, with our changing climate and other modern variables, will likely never occur again, I learned that a smarter approach may be to manage those ecosystems for a future where the planet is warmer and overcrowded.
This change in perspective is the result of spending two days learning from scientists, foresters, ecologists and other professionals at NNRG’s great conference!
Are you a podcast fan? Check out this special interview with our president, Ryan Temple, to learn about what makes our wood products sustainable.
Prepare to be inspired!
Some of this obfuscation is due to the creation of competing standards: Shortly after FSC was founded in 1993, the American wood lobby created its own certification system, the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, a very different version that allows some of the more controversial practices that FSC prohibits.
In the years since, many stakeholders in the FSC system, including this company, have worked hard to clarify exactly what makes FSC such a valuable and trustworthy tool for measuring the quality of the forestry from which so many of our necessary products come from. FSC is not without is problems, but we believe it to be the best certification system for forests that exists at this time.
In sum, FSC requires stringent forestry practices which prohibit deforestation, including conversion of natural forests to plantations; protects rare old growth and other High Conservation Values; protects Rare, Threatened and Endangered species; strictly limits clearcut sizes in order to protect forest ecosystems; restricts the use of highly hazardous pesticides; protects the rights of indigenous peoples; and requires stakeholder consultation on both public and private lands.
[Photo at right: A clearcut along Highway 26 in Northwest Oregon.]
Here in Oregon, our forest practices act allows for many of the practices that FSC prohibits. Some of these legal practices may have the potential for unintended consequences in affected communities and habitats. These include the spraying of pesticides that can drift beyond the areas targeted during routine applications, exposing residents to toxins and polluting the freshwater streams upon which many Oregonians, human and otherwise, depend.
Our laws allow the cultivation of monoculture tree plantations on both state-owned and private lands, where native mixed-species and mixed-age forests are replaced with one type of tree, all planted at the same time.
These dense plantings are more prone to annihilation during wildfires, which are becoming worse each year as we experience record-breaking heat waves and droughts. While fires in the past were likely to burn light and quick through the understory, leaving the big trees standing and the soil intact, these modern fires burn so hot, lighting up the dense groves of dry, unhealthy trees, that everything in their path is destroyed, including the life-sustaining microbial communities in the soil, which scientists are only beginning to study and understand.
Deforestation is also a major contributor to greenhouse gas pollution, more so even that global transportation emissions. Forests used to be a carbon sink, transforming atmospheric carbon into wood fiber and replacing it with oxygen. But today, due to widespread deforestation and the increase in catastrophic wildfires, forests are poised to contribute more carbon to the atmosphere than the remaining acreage of intact forests is able to absorb.
Responsible forest management, like that embodied by FSC, is a solution to these problems. It goes far beyond what this state's forestry laws allow, explicitly prohibiting many of the most harmful activities. FSC-certified woodlands are audited annually by third-party agencies, who visit and document conditions to ensure that the stringent management criteria are being met. The wood that is harvested from these forests is also subject to annual audits to ensure that the chain of custody from forest to consumer remains intact.
For visitors to these forests, the difference is dramatic. The FSC forests that we have toured in person are home to many different species and ages of trees. They are natural, functioning habitats that cool the air and the streams flowing through in the summer and are home to diverse wildlife. They feel whole, and it is obvious that timber production is not the main driver of management decisions.
[Photo at left: A forester marks trees to be harvested in an FSC forest that provided cedar and fir lumber for Sustainable Northwest Wood. Photo credit Trout Mountain Forestry.]
FSC is not the only marker of responsible forestry -- there are some responsible forest managers and owners who do not participate in FSC or other certification systems. But FSC is a consistent and reliable way for consumers, builders, and homeowners to know that their wood is coming from well-managed forests.
The footage used in the video below was filmed in FSC forests here in Northwest Oregon, including Hyla Woods, which is a exemplary model of forestry practices that more than meet FSC's criteria.
We hope that many more acres of forests, both public and private, are able to achieve FSC certification in the years to come. And we hope that shoppers of all types select regionally sourced, FSC certified alternatives wherever possible.
Whether you're in need of our in-stock, butcher-block style Northwest Solid Wood Surfaces for quick and easy table tops or a one-of-a-kind statement piece for the city's most memorable bar, give us a call and we can set you up with a special piece of wood with a story to tell.
We highly recommend that you can check out our wood at these establishments, if not to admire the beauty and character of Northwest native species, then for the delicious food!
- Breakside Brewing, Slabtown location (Myrtlewood seating and host stand, Camground Blue Pine private room)
- Dapper & Wise (Live-edge slabs from our Epilogue collection)
- Lardo (mixed-grain FSC Douglas Fir)
- Burnt Bridge Cellars (Live-edge Restoration Juniper bar)
- Jefe (Restoration Juniper tables on covered patio)
- Miss Zumstein (FSC Big Leaf Maple butcher block counters)
- Migration Brewing, Gresham (Opening soon! Pacific Madrone bar and table tops)
We agree, it's not the world's most descriptive or memorable name for a lumber company, but the story behind our name explains our roots, and offers insight into what makes our company, Sustainable Northwest Wood, such a special member of the wood products industry.
FSC lumber was hard to find at most lumberyards, and local species from community based mills nearly impossible to find. This made it exceedingly difficult for environmentally-minded builders, architects, and homeowners to use these responsible wood products.
So, using their knowledge of the Northwestern lumber industry, Sustainable Northwest stepped in to fill this gap and make responsible, local lumber easier and more economical for everyone to use.
We are still owned by Sustainable Northwest, our parent non-profit, and proceeds from our business go to support and strengthen their work in energy, forestry, and water conservation projects through the region.
You can stop in anytime to take a look at the current selection (8am to 5pm, Monday through Friday, at our showroom in SE Portland).
You can also browse the online catalog of Epilogue slabs at this link.
We keep Character-grade Pacific Madrone, Restoration Juniper, and FSC Doug Fir flooring in stock and ready to go for floors, walls, and other creative installations. Contact us for updated pricing and availability.
Shown below, clockwise from top left: Character-grade Pacific Madrone, Zigzag Doug Fir, Select Pacific Madrone, and Rustic Doug Fir.
We've got lots of special items available right now at a discount, including flooring, economy-grade juniper timbers, and more. Check out the list below (PDF link) and give us a call...everything is first come, first served!
Local sales only.
When local developer Green Canopy came to us in search of some show-stopping wood for a staircase, we knew just what to provide: Custom reclaimed Douglas fir timbers salvaged from a nearby deconstruction project.
We were able to provide treads and matching accents, including the railing, stringers, and coordinating shelving, in just the dimensions they needed, hewn out of massive reclaimed beams.
We then sanded the timbers smooth, giving them a beautiful look for this graceful new home.
By selecting the DECLARE product transparency label for our solid surface countertops, Sustainable Northwest Wood has become the first solid wood surface manufacturer to take this important step toward disclosing the ingredients used in wood adhesives. DECLARE is a transparency platform and product database developed and maintained by the International Living Future Institute that is changing the materials marketplace by making public the ingredients used within products.
Our Northwest Solid Wood Surfaces are one of just a few products lines we are currently offering that aren't made of solid, 100% natural wood. In addition to the wood, which makes up more than 98% of them, these solid surfaces include adhesives that hold the individual staves of wood together. By declaring the adhesives in these products, we are taking a step toward informing our customers about the ingredients that make up these adhesives.
At this time, due to the proprietary nature of our supplier's formulas, we are not able to list with certainty all of the ingredients that make up these adhesives (the supplier isn't even able to disclose this information, simply because they don't know). This unfortunately is an industry-wide problem, and at this time there are no suitable alternative adhesives that can be used. But the DECLARE label is a step in the right direction, and has opened up a frank conversation with our supplier about their ingredients.
By completing the DECLARE process, our solid wood surfaces have become compliant with Living Building Challenge projects.
Today, we can’t say that our solid wood surface countertops are Red List Free, but we see the DECLARE label as a step in the right direction. We will continue to advocate for the use of wood adhesives that can offer 100% transparency, and as soon as we and our suppliers are able to find an effective, high-quality Red List Ready adhesive that we can use for these tops, we look forward to employing it.